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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Making of the Equicizer (Part Three): The Packaging Process

In Wooden Horse Wednesday’s sixth blog, we are going to show you the packaging process for the Equicizer. This is the third in a three part series. Make sure you are caught up on parts one and two first!


Fun facts about the Equicizer:

  • Frankie builds the cartons the Equicizers ship in and packages the Equicizers himself.
  • Aside from the United States, the Equicizer has shipped to 27 countries including places such as Canada, all over Europe, the United Arab Emirates, China, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Japan and many places in between!
  • The Equicizer was used in the making of the major motion picture “Seabiscuit”, the television series “Wild Fire” and the reality TV series “Big Brother”.

Many people don’t realize, the Equicizer is packaged in-house – in other words, all of the wrapping and packaging (including building the cartons the Equicizers ship in) is done in our shop here in Norwalk, Ohio by Frankie.


The packaging process begins with building the cartons. Long pieces of corrugated cardboard are secured together to make lids for the cartons and the wooden sleds are built to serve as a foundation for the Equicizer to sit on inside the carton.


The wheels for the Equicizers are packed into boxes which will ship inside the cartons along with the Equicizers. The sleds are also prepared.


The Equicizer is set and secured into the wooden sled and is strapped down.


Next, the Equicizer is covered in protective plastic wrap and the walls, top and bottom of the carton are put into place.


Then the Equicizer carton is strapped together securely and the appropriate stickers, as well as the set up instructions, are placed on the outside of each carton.


Lastly, shipments are set up and the Equicizer gets wheeled right outside the shop to the waiting freight truck and is on the way to its new owner!

This process is done for each Equicizer sent out! The Equicizer itself weighs only 160lbs but packaged, it weighs 210lbs – still light enough for two people to move around!

Bonus: See a video of "The Making of Zenyatta". Zenyatta is the Equicizer we made for jockey Mike Smith.


By Kayla Jarvinen

WHW and You!


This morning we are going to take a break from Kayla's "How It's Made" series to get some feedback on the Wooden Horse Wednesday blog. We are really excited about the momentum the blog is gaining. We have many exciting guest posts coming up and would like your feedback before we go any further.

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What would you like to see more of on our blog?

We are eager to hear your comments and suggestions! 
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Check back with us later today for the final installation of Kayla's "How It's Made" series!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Making of the Equicizer (Part Two): The Building Process

In Wooden Horse Wednesday’s fifth blog we’re going to detail, through pictures, the process of building and putting together the Equicizer’s body, including the attachment of the horse heads that were shown being carved and painted in last week’s blog. Before we begin, here are this week’s fun facts about the Equicizer!

Fun facts about the Equicizer:

  • Frankie builds the Equicizer in sets of 4 at a time.

  • A set of 4 Equicizers take a little over 2 weeks to complete from start to finish - with no hiccups! - when they are then ready to be sent out the door to their new owners.  This amounts to 6-8 Equicizers built a month, which allows for roughly 72-96 Equicizers to be built per year.

  • To date, Frankie has built over 1,170 Equicizers which have shipped all over the world.

The Building Process

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The outer shell of the Equicizer is built similar to the hull of a boat, structurally able to withstand significant weight and pressure that support the mechanics and array of hardware that will be placed inside, along with the rider. This picture gives only a small view of the design that is behind and makes up this outer shell.

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The Equicizer shell is first padded and then carpeted, according to the color the customer ordered.
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The neck is covered and the mane is put on.

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The tail, handles, back and side panels are also placed on.

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For the Elites, the wooden side rails are attached to the base frame. The Classics do not have this additional detail. Then the frame is secured to the body of the Equicizer and the rest of the hardware is placed inside.
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Once the head is secured onto the body of the Equicizer, holes are drilled for the bridle.
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The nameplate is secured and the finishing touches are all that’s left!
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These are only a handful of the steps involved in making an Equicizer. There are dozens of other steps taken before the Equicizer is actually complete but this should give you a rough idea of what’s involved in building an Equicizer. In next week’s blog, we’ll take a look at the packaging process!
By: Kayla Jarvinen

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Making of the Equicizer (Part One): The Head Carving Process

Welcome to Wooden Horse Wednesday’s fourth blog! Now that you know a little more about the history of the Equicizer and how it came to be, over the course of the next three blogs we’re going to show you some of the steps involved in building each Equicizer. Building an Equicizer is an extremely labor intensive process. With everything being built and done by hand, it is also very time consuming and costly. Despite the challenges, we are proud that our product is custom made to order right here in the United States! Before we look at some of the steps involved in the building process, we want to share a fun fact with you about the Equicizer!

Fun fact about the Equicizer:
  • Creator and builder, Frankie Lovato, builds each Equicizer himself, by hand. To hire people for the various jobs involved in the creation of an Equicizer as is, would be too costly due to the multitude of specialized skills needed!

The Head Carving Process

The first step in building an Equicizer is carving and painting the faces. These photos will give you a glimpse into that process:
Each head arrives at Lovato's shop as blocks of wood, put together by one of his long time suppliers. photo 1a_zps4iosoa0x.jpg  
The carving process starts with five pieces of select pine glued together to form a block of wood, in the beginning shape of a horse head.
After the heads are glued together, the carving process begins.
The Classic Model heads take about an hour and a half each to carve.
The Elite Model heads on the other hand (shown here), take around 4 hours to carve – and that’s for the carving alone!
With an eye for detail, he carefully sculpts the eyes. photo 2_zpscbv3kufe.jpg
The heads are sanded extensively during the carving process and then again after each coat of urethane is applied.

When the painting process begins, each head is first stained, and then multiple coats of urethane are applied in between sanding, with the accents being the last thing to go on before the final coat of urethane is sprayed, all over the course of several days.
The following photo is a great illustration of the heads at three different stages of the carving/painting process:

Stay tuned for next week’s blog in which we’ll discuss how the main frame of the Equicizer is built and put together!

By Kayla Jarvinen

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

“The First Wooden Horse” - The Birth of the Equicizer (Part 3)

Welcome to Equicizer's third Wooden Horse Wednesday blog! This week’s blog is number three in our introduction to the "birth of the Equicizer". If you haven't yet, make sure you read Parts One and Two of this series!

After relocating to Norwalk, Ohio, one would assume, with Lovato free to put everything he had into his Equicizer business, it would be smooth sailing onward. There were hiccups along the way, but when all was said and done, Lovato had a new shop to get to work in and the time to invest into making his business a success.

With social media really coming around, the internet became a wonderful tool for Lovato to use when promoting his wooden horses. Word of mouth had been the primary means prior – and still is an invaluable tool – but with everything now riding solely on the success of the Equicizer business, it all helped. With more time and opportunities to take his special invention to expo’s and conferences, the horse world at large began becoming exposed to the Equicizer. Top clinicians across every discipline in America became aware of the benefits it offered and the amazing teaching tool it was. Therapeutic riding centers and individual households that had children and adults with disabilities, saw the potential the Equicizer brought to their programs and their homes.

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In an attempt to make their business bigger and better – and driven by the necessity of needing investors to take it to the next level – after much discussion and multiple meetings in person, the Lovato’s sold their Equicizer business to another company in 2011, in the hopes that this company would be able to take them there. The new company hired the Lovato’s as the manufacturers and took care of the business side themselves. For a short time everything seemed to be going well but things took a turn for the worse when the controlling company decided to try and outsource the Equicizer to China – and after failing – continued to take orders even after they had shut down production and laid the Lovato’s off from their own company.

After more negotiations and struggle, Lovato finally bought his business back in the spring of 2014. With a lot of damage control to contend with, Lovato’s fantastic reputation and dedication to his product was the main driving force to setting things right and getting the Equicizer back on track. Customers who had their money taken but orders never fulfilled by the previous company, got their money back with Lovato’s help and replaced their order with him, finally receiving their beautiful wooden horses. On top of this, new orders began coming in again. Lovato was back in full swing and the untarnished brand of the Equicizer with him in the driver’s seat, continues to inspire and change the lives of people around the world. 

Our customer base extends from the United States to 27 countries around the world, including places such as Canada, all over Europe, the United Arab Emirates, China, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Japan and many places in between. The Equicizer has been used by riders for styles as varied as Dressage, Hunter/Jumper, Western Pleasure, Endurance, Vaulting, Polo, and Racing, and also for training by riding instructors, for film making and special effects, and in private homes. It has been used for weight loss, by rehabilitation centers, in therapeutic riding programs, for Hippotherapy, Massage Therapy, general exercise, and for just plain fun!  Because they are all built by hand, by Frankie Lovato himself, the quality and craftsmanship of the Equicizer is top notch.

In the coming weeks, we will feature pictures illustrating some of the many steps required to build an Equicizer.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The First “Wooden Horse” - The Birth of the Equicizer (Part 2)

Welcome to Equicizer's second Wooden Horse Wednesday blog! In this week’s blog, we’ll continue where we left off last week. After Lovato’s racing injury in 1981 and with his surgeries now behind him, he had a long road to recovery ahead.

Short of getting on real horses, which was out of the question, there was nothing available to help Lovato begin stretching and strengthening the muscles he would need for riding again. Not long before, Lovato had been on top of the racing world as he won the 1980 Eclipse Award for Apprentice Jockey of the nation. Now, a year later, faced with months of rehabilitation in his future, and without a real solution to answer the question of riding, Lovato got to work and built his first wooden horse in 1982.
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As he had intended, this wooden horse, which he later named the Equicizer, helped Lovato regain the flexibility and strength he needed to get back to riding. What he didn’t expect, were the requests from fellow riders that began trickling in for one of his “wooden horses”.  His very first customers were Angel Cordero, Jr. and Laffit Pincay, Jr., both legendary jockeys who would go on to use the Equicizer almost religiously as a part of their fitness and training routines. It didn’t stop there however, and the trickle that began with his comeback, turned into a flood as other riders around the country – and then around the world – became aware of Lovato’s wooden horse.  

Doing his best to manage the demand the Equicizer brought while maintaining his riding career, which went on to span 25 years, the market for the Equicizer continued to expand in racing and beyond. In 1990 Lovato made the decision to retire and focus exclusively on building Equicizers, but after a phone call from his financial adviser, he realized his business was not yet at the point where it could sustain him and his family full time. He went back to riding after a short hiatus, putting his wooden horse on the backburner once again.  
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Frankie's last winner before retirement.

The remainder of the 1990’s saw Lovato building only a handful of Equicizers as he focused on his riding career and as the year 2000 hit, realizing his retirement was not too far off, he decided to forgo the Equicizer business completely to finish out his racing career. Around the same time, Lovato was approached by the producers of the major motion picture “Seabiscuit” which went on to use the Equicizer to train actor Tobey McGuire and in all of the close-up action scenes during the making of the movie.  
Tobey McGuire on an Equicizer

Having been based primarily in New York, where his home and family resided during the duration of his career, Lovato left home and rode the Kentucky-Chicago-New Orleans circuit for the last 4 years of his career, finally hanging up his tack for good in 2004. He returned to his home in New York and two years later, desiring to get out of the city, the Lovato’s packed up all of their belongings and relocated to the small town of Norwalk, Ohio, were Sandy had grown up. They purchased a house in the country about 5 miles from town that had a workshop on the property (which was far more suited to setting up the Equicizer business than his garage turned workshop in New York that he worked out of for years) – and Lovato was finally able to turn his full attention back to his invention, unsure exactly how and where it would take him but ready to give it all he had.
Frank Lovato Jr
New Orleans